Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

The Reckoning

In these fractions I seek solace
That infarction is no menace
To my own unknown condition
Though my colleague lies on trollies
As they fill her veins with serum
Hoping vasos are dilated
I’m surrounded by the vision
Such careers are overrated
In my secretary’s costume
I must take on further duties
Try to prop up one more rostrum
And ignore last rites for loot. He’s
Working from his home computer
While I ride the bus to nowhere
In the misty morning chatter
That’s conceived to make me go there
How much more am I allotted?
This existence, mere survival
Will I too go out, garotted
By a heart attack unrivalled?
As my logic fails, convince me;
I’ve decisions that are burning
Every inch would rather lynch me
Than continue painful earning.

Although I rarely explain my scribblings, as I prefer to let the reader interpret them at will, this poem, and the one that follows are written in response to a recent event. The woman with whom I share a desk at my day job suffered a heart attack this week. The events on that occasion and which have followed have caused me to question our place in the universe with perhaps more focused ferocity than usual.

Untitled

This is the place we come to die
We secretaries, in our rows
Two frozen stiffs, a living lie
Few care to note, and no one knows.

While patient, we sit out our time
In managing capricious men
Whose fruitless whims, though not malign
Wear lines on brows and fray each hem.

One more may chew on dust this hour
No more to block electric space
In diary; a heart lacks power
To beat a path through empty wastes.

We are not dumb, and yet, we wait
Preparing meeting rooms, hot drinks
Awaiting proof; appreciate
A mind, unheeded, soul that shrinks

And though the autopsy infers
What killed her was nobody’s fault
That one can prove, (except for hers)
With such a sedentary vault

Of memories of closet, desk,
A filing cabinet to store
The means of murder – this slow death
Made up of tedium and chore.

Humanitarian Crisis

I worked late today
In the usual way
Then stood long for a bus
While ignoring the fuss
All the placards and song
Of a protesting throng

When the first one came full
Joined the back of the queue
‘Til I hopped on the second
No wiser, I reckoned
To pressure or purpose
That brought out the workforce

I sat in my headphones
Absorbing through eardrums
The tunes of a playlist
Unchanged through two ages
And stared through graffiti
At people beneath me

Not knowing, nor caring
What fate we were sharing
Familiar landscape blurred
Into the sounds I heard
Hopped off three stops early
Finished one journey

I trudged ‘cross the common
To see if I’d find one
More bus driver’s hubs
Standing still by the pubs
Sure enough, there I saw
Not just one, but some four

When one finally, late
Put his pedal to plate
He pulled up to the tavern
Waved me past his cabin
For NFC, broken
Would not zap my token

I settled inside
Chose a tune for my ride
But two stops, no further
We stopped in a lather
Five kids, come from school
With no change to fare-pool

Tried to board, barter, beg
But compassion was neg.
As commuters grew restless
One woman, well-dressed, stressed
Their selfishness loudly
“Eff off!” she yelled, proudly

Some gentleman, small
Added footage to gall
Thus the youths took offense
At this lack of good sense
And a row quickly rose
As his phone met his toes

While we waited, suspended
To see what might end it
Some ran for the next bus
Some added their voices
And called for policemen
To make them see reason

It took three more stops
And a call to the cops
But not one among us
Could hit on the obvious
Tempers grew heated
As workers felt cheated

Ashamed, I forgot
Or I simply did not
Check I had enough money
Available, on me
To throw them a bone
So we’d all make it home.

Two cigarettes

17:23

Fingers shaking, she fumbles to light it
Lips quivering, cornflower eyes over-large
Underlined, ringed in runny mascara
Bronzer and orange paint

Long blonde hair fashionably streaked
Hanging down like a dingy waterfall
She clamps her clutch beside her
With a slender elbow, shivers

At unseasonal weather in a short skirt
Trying not to cry, this nymph
Ankles wobble on the too-high heels
Waiting for a bus in the rain

Sucking in gasping lungfuls
She smokes her sadness
Twisting suffering to submission
In a single cigarette

18:02

His rumbling growl is subsiding now
The stream of curse words unbroken
Since he staggered down the aisle
Pushing past each passenger

Heading for the back bench
Of the almost empty upper deck
Something inside him is angry
It cannot keep still or quiet

A familiar double click precedes
The billowing clouds of calm
He thunks a window shut
Clad in a cloak of smoke

That may obscure the world
Of see-through stickers
With their pious proclamation
‘No Smoking’, red ring, slash

A Central Line View

Seven minutes more
In a strip-lit sardine can
With persistent smell of B.O.
Burning face and underarm

We commute without much notice
Paid to wonders understood
Underground and underwhelming
So familiar, The Tube

With the eyes of travelled strangers
Lit by glow of old, yet new
Tracing coloured lines that link our
Sprawling city, as they do

Sighs impatient at the humdrum world
That passes Perspex walls
Tourists scorned by jaded Londoners
Ignoring other souls

Frustration (or why the female of the species is more deadly than the male)

The clown at work
Who wrecks his tech
Until you’d, cheerful
Break his neck

The letch en route
Who’d lick your thighs
Whose comments make you
Roll your eyes

The slobs, commuting
That don’t share
Shift bag, nor arse
To spare a chair

The manager
Who can’t decide
To rule the troops –
Job suicide

The lover’s ears
That don’t retain
A single word
Of our refrain

M-B-D

Metro – boulot – dodo
Mais ce tri-rhythme ne fait pas
Mention aux heures passees
Entournee de la foule des sots
Les inanites quotidiens
Qui font partie du vague
De violences et d’impuissances
Qui me pervadent
Quand on se trouve fermee
Comme un veau, sous le sol
Dans le foutu metro

Et au bureau – faisant boulot
On bosse, point. Et pourtant
Le chef, il dort dans son cabinet
A sentir couler du robinet
L’eau de vie et du passe
Vos esperances; amours frustres
Pendant qu’on fasse ses devoirs
Comme si on se trouvait toujours
Au lycee, devant un mec aine
Qui s’est convaincu – c’est pas a lui
De faire ce qu’il faut de quoi qu’il soit
Et tout ca commence avec un mot
Son bonjour-argot ”pret, le cafe?’

Alors, qu’est-ce qu’on fait
Au moment du rentree?
Mais dormir – c’est ca
Apres chaque journee.

——————————————

Tube – desk – bed

Tube – desk – bed
But this triple rhythm does not
Make mention of the hours spent
Surrounded by the crowd of fools
The daily inanities
Which make up the wave
Of violence and frustration
Which seeps into me
When I find myself enclosed
Like a veal, underground
In the fucking tube

And at the office – beavering away
One slaves, full-stop. And meanwhile
The boss, asleep in his cubicle
Listens to the tap dripping
The water of life and of the past
Your hopes; frustrated loves
While one does his duty (for him)
As if one were still
In school, in front of an older boy
Who has convinced himself it isn’t for him
To do what he ought, of whatever it is
And the whole thing starts with a tiny phrase
His greeting-slang ‘Is the coffee ready yet?’

So what does one do
When one reaches home?
But sleep – that’s all
After every single day

Tea and sympathy

I noticed the smell
Before seeing the man
As he first tried it on
With the girl by the sign

I kept gazing at trains
Sipping watery sludge
Barely conscious of movement
Of space, sound, or time

With my chilly feet aching
And feeling the burn
Having finished a shift
With the B.M.D. gang

And put up with the tourists
Mind set to ‘return’
In the crush and the waiting
Victoria Station

I wanted my pj’s
And something to scran
A reprieve from the knowledge
Tomorrow is Monday

A moment’s escape
From the hellish élan
That rises responding
To transport on Sunday

I sighed at his gait
As he soft-shoed along
Cursing hard-hearted kids
Under-dressed for the winter

His t-shirt encrusted
With layers of pong
That would shame to a beak
Even Marble Arch scroungers

He lurched to a halt
Far too close to my skin
And launched into his spiel
To upset and impress me

I felt little more
Than the usual pain
At the series of tricks
He employed just to press me

And tiring of lies
Moaned in flattening vowels
As he tried to appear
To be pitied before me

His simple demands
I did meet with a smile
Giving coin for some peace
That he hence might ignore me

But trotting away
The reprieve was a short one
I swayed on my feet
Craning necks to evade

In the hope they’d announce
Platform numbers for Sutton
No more on my journey
Might I be waylaid

The very same man
Rose, a vision before me
To launch the same dialogue
Over again

I tried to divert him
He strove to ignore me
“Just gave you a pound
For a tea!” I exclaimed

The man seemed offended
And told me more stories
His life had been hard
He was hardly to blame

A single commuter
Of kind disposition
Would hardly stand out
In the crowds of the day

His ‘few pints’ that evening
A hint at the blinder
Awaiting what money
I’d chosen to pay

As much as I might like
To give to the guy
Little hoping for comforts
Unknown and less useful

He steadfast, refusing
To catch at my eye
Made his bitterest mouthfuls
Taste much less than truthful

I listened again
To the tale he was spinning
Not worthy of one
Born to charity’s curse

But all I could offer
Returning the favour
More sympathy, tea
And a haven in verse

Mercury Falling

80% of me
Won’t pray for snow
But traitorous 20 cries
‘Bring it! Let’s go!’

Legs in blue lycra
Are goosebumped in fear
Reports boasting figures:
30 year nadir

I can’t stomach weather
That threatens my nose
Through four socks and leather
I can’t feel my toes

My wardrobe unravels
In layers of scarves
And yet on my travels:
Girls sporting bare calves?

‘Tis too much to ask
In these perilous times
For our corporate taskforce
To dress for these climes

If sensitive skin
Must be tortured anew
Then I’ll work from my duvet –
The least they can do!